Seattle Seahawks

Will Seahawks draft the younger backups they've wanted for linebackers Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright?

The Seahawks drafted Central Florida linebacker Shaquem Griffin Saturday in the fifth round, making him the first one-handed player drafted into the modern NFL. He is reuniting with his twin brother Shaquill, the Seahawks' starting cornerback.
The Seahawks drafted Central Florida linebacker Shaquem Griffin Saturday in the fifth round, making him the first one-handed player drafted into the modern NFL. He is reuniting with his twin brother Shaquill, the Seahawks' starting cornerback. AP

Pete Carroll has said for years he wants younger, effective backups for Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.

Will this be the draft Seattle selects the rookie proteges for their All-Pro middle linebacker and Pro Bowl man outside?

A more popular question around here about linebackers: Will the Seahawks draft Shaquem Griffin, the twin brother of their starting cornerback, Shaquill?

With all that's happened this offseason — sending away Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett, overhauling the coaching staff including the top four assistants in the aftermath of Seatte's first non-playoff year since 2011 — the Seahawks could build some goodwill in the Pacific Northwest by drafting Shaquem Griffin.

They have met with the University of Central Florida wonder and combine sensation who is trying to be the first one-handed player drafted into the NFL.

"Don't set limits for me," Shaquem Griffin said.

Shaquill is one minute younger than Shaquem. He knows about overcoming odds to make the NFL. He didn’t get an invitation initially to the 2017 combine, then got one and parlayed that into getting selected in the third round of the draft by Seattle.

Just like the league did to Shaquill, the NFL originally did not invite Shaquem to this combine. Apparently, an all-league linebacker in a major conference each of the last two seasons and MVP of the Peach Bowl when UCF beat blue-blood program Auburn of the mighty Southeastern Conference on January 1 — all while playing with one hand — wasn’t worthy enough.

In late January, Shaquem impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl. He was the all-star game’s practice player of the week.

Last year was the first time in their lives Shaquem and Shaquill were separated. Could they be reunited on the Seahawks’ defense this year?

Seahawks general manager John Schneider sounded impressed with Shaquem. The GM invoked the name of one of the most wondrous, impressive men in the history of a sports when talking about Shaquem at the combine.

“I can’t tell you who, but I had somebody tell me they had met John Wooden before and that the feeling they got sitting down with John Wooden for five minutes was the same feeling they got from him,” Schneider said, referring to the legendary UCLA champion basketball coach, thinker, philosopher and motivator. “I haven’t been able to do that personally yet, so I am pretty excited about that.

“He’s a special dude."

Griffin was one of the 60 interviews the Seahawks are allowed to have, at 15 minutes each, with prospects at the combine.

Wright's contract as the Seahawks' weak-side linebacker ends after this year. And play-making linebackers will be available for the Seahawks to draft and development, especially in the later rounds on Saturday. Seven of the eight selections Seattle is scheduled to have in this draft are in rounds four, five and seven on Saturday.

Here are the top of the linebacker class, and those likely to be available for the Seahawks later.

LINEBACKER

1. Roquan Smith, Georgia: Size. Speed. Tackling. Excellence inside. Excellence outside. The most complete linebacker, unanimous All-American and Butkus Award winner as college football's best linebacker will go soon after the first few picks.

2. Tremaine Edwards, Virginia Tech: Dynamo was all over college fields off edges. Crazy aggressive, at times. One of record 107 juniors declaring for this draft, he may also go in the top 10.

3. Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State: A self-made stud. Former scrawny, overlooked walk-on came out of nowhere for Boise State last year. Some teams have injury concerns about him, which may or may not keep him out of the first round.

Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State.JPG
Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has been called the breakout player of college football in 2017. The former walk-on has the athleticism to go in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday, but some teams have injury concerns about him. Joe Jaszewski Idaho Statesman file

Possible later-round options for the Seahawks:

1. Shaquem Griffin: You're not supposed to root for picks, but it's hard not to on this one. However, Griffin may already be picked before Seattle's scheduled selection in round four.

2. Jason Cabinda, Penn State: One of the true, stout, prototypical inside linebackers and thudding tacklers in the draft. But is he too specialized in a league that needs coverage men at linebacker, even inside? He's not that.

3. Darius Leonard, South Carolina State: No big-time college offers. Now a runner who plays with heart and hustle. Some project him as an NFL weak-side linebacker. So athletic he may not last to day three of this draft.

— Gregg Bell

  Comments